Suddith, Pearson round out ‘travelers’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Features Editor

The traveling exhibit "Alabama Art" features 12 Alabama artists and internationally- acclaimed artist Nall, founder of the exhibition and a Troy native.

The "Celebration of Alabama Art with Pike County" from 6 until 8 p.m., Sept. 4 at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama will feature the work of these 12 artists and the work of several local artists, including Nall.

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During the past few weeks, The Messenger

has presented sketches of 10 of the "Alabama Art" artists who will be featured at the museum reception and exhibition. This edition will highlight Jimmy Lee Sudduth and Clifton Pearson, who are the last of the traveling dozen, but certainly not the least.

Sudduth’s work may not be as well known in the Pike County area as the work of Mose T., but it is certainly among the best of all "outsider" artists.

Sudduth creates his paintings on plywood boards at his small home in Fayette. He taught himself to use such materials as mud, turnip greens, watermelon vines, berries, coffee grounds and tobacco as paint. In recent years, he has also used house paint for color with occasional touches of glitter.

What began as personal expression when he started drawing pictures when he was 3 years old is now sought by the world of museums, collectors and galleries.

"Jimmy Lee generally blocks in his paintings on plywood with a ‘dye-rock’ or pencil," said Georgine Clarke, Alabama State Council on the Arts. "Then he dips his finger into a bucket of mud mixture and begins to fill in the shapes."

Clarke said watching Sudduth work is to watch the joy of creation and the certainty of skill.

"Bold, fluid movements create the form of an animal or a woman or a long house," she said. "His delight with both the process and the resulting picture is evident."

Still painting at age 89, Sudduth is encouraged by a stream of visitors who appreciate his work.

He received an award recognizing his artistic achievement at the 1995 black-tie gala of the Society for the Fine Arts of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama.

"The award was given because Jimmy Lee has contributed substantially to an important movement in late-20th century American art," Clarke said. "And, because he has brought many Americans a refreshing perspective on Southern life and creativity. More simply, Jimmy Lee has loved life and has shared that love and joy with us all."

As refreshing as Sudduth’s primitive art, is Clifton Pearson’s ceramic and glass works.

His engaging works occupy an interesting zone between representative and imagined reality.

"Clifton Pearson has revered his past and his passions through Southern stoneware," said Nall. "His glazes are red, white and black, symbolic of the mixture of the ‘American race.’ His own portrait, as beautifully sculpted as the Carpeau ‘Negress,’ tops each figure as a testimony to the dignity and morality that African Americans and Native Americans maintain from their cultural roots."

Nall said Pearson embellishes each "Celebrated Figure" with a sophisticated decoration of scales, tendons and honeycomb patterns.

"But the headdress is worn like a crown, defying equality and returning us to a tribal system," he said. "African influence in all its forms has been feeding American society, nurturing and babysitting her soul."

No matter what preference in art one has, all of those who attended the "Celebration of Alabama Art with Pike County" reception and exhibition Sept. 4 will find something that touches the heart, if not the soul.

The event is open to the public and is sponsored by Troy State University, the city of Troy, the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, the Troy Council on the Arts and Humanities and the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.